In my review of Singapore Suites, I mentioned that I spent Christmas and New Year in Australia and New Zealand. As part of that trip I flew from Australia over to New Zealand as I was heading down to Queenstown. I was up in the Gold Coast spending New Year’s Eve with some friends, and so the easiest way of getting down to Queenstown, whilst avoiding Jetstar was to fly Air New Zealand from Gold Coast Airport to Christchurch, then connecting down the next morning to Queenstown.
I’d never flown Air New Zealand before, but had heard some pretty good things. The flight was due to be operated by one of their brand new A321neo’s in an all economy layout.
Air New Zealand offer a variety of different fare types when crossing the Tasman, but interestingly, only “The Works” is bookable on their UK site. That includes a meal, drinks, and a checked bags. If you want the more basic fare types that exclude bags or a meal, then you have to go the Australian or New Zealand sites to book and pay in local currency.
As a Star Alliance Gold, I was also entitled to lounge access. Air New Zealand don’t have a lounge at the Gold Coast airport, so I was very surprised and pleased to find out that they had an arrangement with Qantas so that people like me, and their Koru Club Members could use their facilities. The gentleman welcoming people to the lounge had my name on a list, and asked to see my Lufthansa card, and warmly welcomed me in. Unfortunately it was a fairly busy windowless room, but there were a few snacks, a bar with some sparkling wine, so wasn’t an unpleasant place to spend an hour waiting for the flight.
As the Gold Coast airport is primarily domestic, once you’ve done the first security, you need to then go through a second “international standard security screening” and then Australian immigration to exit the country. You’re then in a fairly basic holding area with a single duty free shop.
Perhaps another 30 minutes later, they were ready to start boarding so called their elite members and star gold members first. We were shown down to the far end where the aircraft was waiting for us.
Boarding was quick and the plane only seemed two thirds full. I was in 4A and had both the B and C seats free.
Being a Star Gold, I was able to select one of the extra leg-room seats at the front of the aircraft for free.
There was a brand new IFE screen in front of me that even had a USB-C port for fast charging of devices, along-side the more standard USB-A.
The taxi and take off were pretty short and before long we were in the air on our way to New Zealand.
This brings me to the next thing, the aircraft had free, high-speed internet access for everyone. And it was really fast. For me, this was the single best thing about the flight – being able to be properly connected for the entire journey was fantastic.
The crew then started the on-board service. They did a bar round for passengers that had purchased “The Works” tickets. G&T was the order of the day.
Then came the food with another bar round. It was definitely economy class food, but it wasn’t too bad at all. Just could have been a little bit larger. After that I fancied another drink which the crew were more than happy to oblige.
Once the inclusive meal service was done, they went round the cabin offering buy on board for those that hadn’t paid for an inclusive fare. I thought this was a nice compromise.
It had got pretty dark by this point and we were close to landing into Christchurch. We touched down about five minutes behind schedule. My bags were delivered pretty quickly, within about ten minutes of arriving in the baggage hall. Customs were typically thorough, wanting to take a look at my hiking boots, but friendly and quick and I was land-side and on my way to the Crowne Plaza within half an hour of touching down.
I was really impressed with Air New Zealand. For economy across the Tasman I had lounge access, lots of legroom, lots to drink, some food and free, fast internet. All with super friendly, helpful cabin crew. What more could you want from a flight?